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MLA urges centre to ban marketing of online gaming companies

Deploring that young minds are falling prey to gambling and going astray, former Karnataka minister and senior BJP legislator Suresh Kumar has written to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman requesting her to take immediate steps to ban advertising, marketing, and texting by online gaming companies.

He pointed out that there are a number of reports from the police across the country highlighting people losing money in online gambling and ruining their lives. Also, there have been reports about indebted people taking the extreme step of ending their lives, unable to survive the trauma and repay debts, Kumar added.

“As a lawmaker representing Rajajinagar Assembly Constituency in Bengaluru, Karnataka, I am in receipt of verbal complaints from several friends and parents of residents from my own constituency as well as from other parts of Bengaluru that they have been getting both text messages on their mobile phones and unsolicited marketing calls trying to entice/force them to play online rummy by betting their money,” Kumar said.

In a letter dated December 8, he said, as part of their marketing strategy, the companies offer a ‘welcome bonus’ of thousands of rupees to lure people and get them to become addicts of the game.

Some people even told him that blocking these numbers has been of no use as these messages and calls come from a new set of numbers, the MLA said, adding that “online gambling, as we know, is like liquor and cigarettes”.

“Though the consumption of liquor and cigarettes is allowed under the law, their manufacturers are expressly prohibited from advertising and marketing them, and even our GST regime treats them as demerit goods. The government imposes steep taxation on them to discourage people from consuming them,” he added.

Further noting that governments also have separate funds and have been running campaigns to discourage people from smoking cigarettes and drinking liquor, Kumar said the Supreme Court too has laid down tough measures to prevent selling of tobacco or cigarettes near educational institutions.

“I am of the strong view that the same regulations should apply to online games involving money. I am aware courts have upheld the legal validity of online games of skill, but there is no bar on the government from prohibiting advertising/marketing/texting by online gaming companies to lure people into playing these games by betting money,” he said.

Once into it, many people tend to become addicts and find it difficult to come out of its web, he said, adding that the pressing need for money may even drive them to commit acts of crime. PTI

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